Sevendust 2018

All I See Is War
by Tommy Rage
July 2018

Sevendust's All I See Is War

Sevendust's All I See Is War

Those items we just can’t seem to throw out: unmatched Tupperware lids, power cords we have no idea what they go to, and that pile of those small shiny silver things we had crammed into the Case Logic sun visor in our car. Although we can toss the keys that we have no idea what they go to and donate our acid-washed jeans; we find it difficult to give up our CD collection. Regardless of the digital age, Sevendust’s self-titled debut album still holds a special place my heart. The grinding guitar intro from their 1997 single, “Black” until the band’s newest release “Dirty” remain as powerful now as it did back then. All five original members: John Connolly (rhythm guitar), Vinnie Hornsby (bass), Morgan Rose (drums), Clint Lowery (lead guitar) and Lajon Witherspoon (vocals) continue to turn out time-tested tunes that will never end up on your friend’s front seat floor mats. All I See Is War, Sevendust’s twelfth studio release stays true to their unapologetic beginnings. Lajon Witherspoon shares the band’s writing process for the album’s first single “Dirty”. “It’s kind of funny, it was one of the first songs we put together when we were in Atlanta: me, John and Morgan. It was just one of those songs that just felt right from the beginning and came out of a jam. We just jammed. I felt like the melody and the song could be about the truth of going into war or a woman or a kid sitting on a bus going into the world, you never know what you’re going to get into.”

Aware of the current political and social times we live in, Witherspoon explains how the group came to choosing the album’s title, “We never knew what we were going to call this album. We kind of looked back at the songs. We talked about war, and it had a feeling of what is going on in the world. As sad as it is, we try to comfort our kids and hide them away from it, but it’s going on all around us. It’s a play on words, but it’s a serious fact. If you look at the [album] cover, you see the kids playing in the background, and there is still mayhem going on around them. It’s how we live our lives, with the crazy stuff going on around us. We still try to live our lives and not be afraid, but we should still know what going on in the world.” 

Writing began in 2017 when the group began working on their May 2018 release All I See Is War. After taking some time away from touring, Witherspoon noted how eager and rejuvenated the group was heading back into the studio. “We took a year and a half off. We had time to be dads and husbands and get away from the road and get a chance to do normal things for a while. When we went into the studio, it was time to put down how we felt. I feel like when you get caught up on being out on the road you don’t get a chance to unplug.” The ability to take a step back and put their thoughts into songs such as “God Bites His Tongue”, “Sickness” and “Life Deceives You” shows how much the band has matured as musicians and as songwriters. Explains Witherspoon, “When you get so caught up in things like being out on the road, you don’t really have time to hone in on the craft that you have. When you are always moving, moving, moving. You need to stop and settle down and think about things like what’s happening in your life and what’s happening in other people’s lives, [like] what’s happening in your brother’s life.” 

With time away to focus on their individual lives, song like “Medicated”, “Unforgiven” and “Risen” carry personal and social messages without overtaking the true metal feel of the album. Going into the studio with approximately 50/60 demo songs, Witherspoon praises producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette with helping the band narrow down the album’s feel. “We had been talking to Elvis forever. Every time we went down to Florida, he would come and hang out with us; and we have always been an admirer of his style.” Laughs Witherspoon, “We were the first band to stay at his house with the studio in it. We had booked a house not far from him when we came in from New York. He picked us up and we went back to his place. He asked if we wanted to stay at his place. Before he even finished the sentence, I was half-way up the stairs to pick out my room [laughter]. We all lived at his house, he has a beautiful home. The studio is themed after a haunted mansion, with candle sconces on the wall and crazy stuff, just an incredible vibe. Anytime we go into the studio, we always go in with a lot of songs. Some of us like different songs, than someone else does. It was great to have Elvis there, he was like the 6th member of the band, it was exciting.”

Although you may expect the metal veterans to either soften their tone or attempt to re-invent themselves, Sevendust has harnessed their angst and life experiences on songs such as “Cheers”, “Descend” and “Moments”. Reflecting on the band’s previous financial struggles (in 2006 Sevendust was considered financially bankrupt) Witherspoon shares his wisdom, “If there is any advice I can give to anyone out there, it’s to get your business smarts in the music industry. Stay true to your art, but also know what’s going in the business. It was something we had to learn along the way. Years ago, all we were doing is touring and when we finally got a tour bus, we felt like we had finally ‘made it’. At the end of the day, when you see [people] around you leave the tour and all you got is a t-shirt from the opening band, and they leave with a new SUV and a boat, you’re like “something is weird?”

“Not Original”, the ninth song on All I See Is War is the hidden sleeper. A balladesque song that was inspired by guitarist Clint Lowery interest in Netflix’s Stranger Things. The song speaks to Lowery’s frustration of being in a creative dry spell. Witherspoon laughs at how original the song actually is, “It’s so funny about that song, at the end of the day, it has to be one of the most original songs [laughter]. We weren’t afraid to go there, and it came out really really cool.”

The joy and enthusiasm Witherspoon shares about putting this album together and still working with his friends in Sevendust is heard from start to finish on All I See Is War. The band manages to take their sound one step further with current compositions and lyrical content. Not working with a producer since 2010’s Cold Day Memory, credit should be given to producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette who allowed the band to share themselves emotionally and still maintain the low-impact sound all the while putting Witherspoon’s powerful and prominent vocals out front. Having already received my Amazon order, I’ll be damned if any of my friends even think about scratching or getting their fingerprint all over my beloved CD All I See Is War. This one isn’t collecting dust anytime soon.

Laughing as we closed out our interview, Witherspoon shared his appreciation of Madison’s loyal Sevendust fans and a somber moment to reflect on a recent rock legend’s death. Former Pantera founding member and drummer Vinnie Paul passed away unexpectedly from heart conditions on June 22, 2018. Sharing his long-time connection with Vinnie Paul and the Pantera crew, “It was 15 years ago this February, I remember because it was Valentine’s Day. My girlfriend, now wife, had never met them before. She had heard me talk about Vinnie and Dimebag, but she couldn’t believe that she was going to meet them. They walked up to me with a trash bag, and said ‘Here ya go, take this, it’s for you!’ The bag was heavy, and I put my hand in the bag and the first thing I felt was a snake. I took my hand out of the bag really really fast, and they were dying laughing at me. They said to me, ‘Ya said you wanted some boots like ours!’ Those were my very first pair of rattlesnake skin boots, and to this day I still do shows in boots and I know it’s because of those guys. The funny part about those guys is, that every time I would see them, they always gave me gifts. Vinnie has given me shoes from Australia, I still have my big white Stetson hat.  It was always fun and exciting to spend time with Vinnie and he was always so giving.  Both Vinnie and his brother were dear friends of mine, more than friends, more like brothers. I’m still in shock about it and I know that both Vinnie and Dime’ were very cool rock stars – if you ever wanted to say someone was a rock star, it was those guys. They treated me with all the respect in the world, since the very first time I met them. I pray for his family, and I know that saying sorry isn’t enough. I’m just happy for him to go home with his brother.”

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Sevendust 2018
CD: All I See Is War Record Label: Rise Records
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